tv Worldfocus WHUT August 25, 2009 10:30pm-11:00pm EDT
tonight on "worldfocus" -- >> british prime minister gordon brown weighs in on the freed lockerbie bomber while some there are asking, was it compassion or business that freed a killer? more violence in afghanistan as early election results showed two presidential candidates neck and neck. our global environment. we have reports on rising sea levels in south asia and endangered forests in africa. and sports fans turn out to welcome home a hero in south africa amid a growing controversy over sex. >> from the world's leading reporters and analysts, here's what's happening from around the world. this is "worldfocus."
made possible in part by the following funders -- major support has also been provided by the peter g. peterson foundation dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility and addressing key economic challenges facing america's future. good evening. i'm martin savidge. five days after scotland released the man convicted of bombing a pan am jetliner over lockerbie, scotland, killing 270 people, the controversy and the outrage over his release and his welcome home in libya continued today. there is, as you can imagine, a great deal of analysis and dissection of the decision going on in the british press. scotland is, after all, a part of the united kingdom. was there a deal for the terrorist release? were british oil interests in
libya a factor? the fascinating questions that are not getting much attention in this country and that we will focus on in a moment. but first, british prime minister gordon brown, he spoke out for the first time today about abdel basset al megrahi and his homecoming. >> my first thoughts are with the families of the victims. and i was both angry and i was repulsed by the reception that a convicted bomber guilty of a huge terrorist crime received on his return to libya. >> and that brings to us tonights "lead focus." our british partner itn has been looking at britain's relationship with libya, its business interest there, leading up to last week's decision to release the lockerbie bomber. as you'll see in john sparks' report, one is left with the impression that at the very least, al megrahi's release can't hurt the relationship. >> reporter: the analysts call it real politic, doing practical deals, the art of give and take. the uk and libya have been doing this for about a decade. but how influential are
commercial considerations? where does business fit in this complex mix? libya is an exciting new destination for british business. but did that excitement influence the decision to release abdel basset al megrahi, the man convicted of the lockerbie bombing. scottish and british governments say absolutely not. but al megrahi's future and new business opportunities have always been part of bilateral negotiations. 2007, colonel gadhafi's regime sought to re-enter the international community after three decades of sanctions and the then british prime minister tony blair offered a hand. they signed a number of agreements, including a prisoner transfer deal, a massive oil contract involving bp followed immediately. was this a so-called packaged deal? >> a so-called deal in the desert, two things emerged. one was a huge traunch of opportunity in the libyan oil
industry for a very well-known international oil company. and the quid pro quo perhaps was the agreement that megrahi would be returned. i'm speculating when i say that, but it does strain common sense a little to believe that there was no connection between the two. >> reporter: the libyans wanted al megrahi to return home and a memorandum on prisoner transfers was drawn up and agreed to as part of the deal in the desert. but it also served to endanger the future of british business interests in libya. this memorandum created a firm expectation in the minds of the libyans that al megrahi would be handed back, and if that didn't happen, if he had died in a scottish prison, well, there would had been severe consequences for bilateral trade, former british diplomats told us. and british companies have already made significant investments in libya. bp signed an exploration deal worth $900 million two years ago. its largest exploration commitment in the world. shell are exploring for gas in libya, as are bg.
but libya has many suitors. the competition is growing fast. u.s. oil giant exxonmobil is now investing $97 million in exploration, and libya's national oil company has partnership deals with everyone from russia's gazprom to the italian giant eni to japanese firm nippon oil. analysts call libya the most exciting investment opportunity in the world with $50 billion of government contracts on offer over the next three years. yet, it is notoriously bureaucratic and controlled by one family. british businesses depend on the uk government to help them compete. >> this is where they do require political expertise. people who can help them navigate some the decisionmaking processes. open doors. arrange meetings. arrange visas. at all sorts of levels. so, yeah, clearly, british government and governments from other markets to -- from other countries can help business
considerably. >> reporter: the relationship between uk plc and the government is close because in libya, it has to be. businesses will certainly be glad that as released on compassionate grounds, but were they lobbying for it, too? >> that was john sparks for itn. for a closer look at britain's relationship with libya, we are joined by jeff porter, the head of middle eastern and african affairs for the eurasia group. a political research and consulting firm. welcome. >> thank you. >> what sort of business interest does the uk really have in libya? >> well, the uk's interest in libya are primarily restricted to the hydrocarbons, so oil. the only exposure britain has to libya is in the oil sector primarily through bp, british petroleum. >> here's the real money question. to what extent do you think that that interest may have influenced the decision to let this lockerbie bomber go free? >> i don't think you can discount it entirely. i don't think it was the fundamental driver in the
decision to release megrahi. but when dealing with libya, oil is always at front of mind. libya doesn't have much to offer except oil and gas. and were it not for oil and gas, i wouldn't think that many people would pay attention to libya. so one has to think that business interests were at least somewhere in the calculations, if not the primary driver. >> and it would be perhaps wrong to think that this is something that just materialized in the last few months? this has been worked on between libya and the uk and scotland, what, for a while? >> that's correct, yeah. tony blair and moammar gadhafi the leader of libya sat down. and during their discussions, i think that they negotiated a prisoner exchange program. in addition, over the course of the last couple of years, the prisoner al megrahi had appealed for the right to have a retrial based on new evidence that the prosecution had withheld evidence from the defense. >> well, i want to get to that. because i wanted to find out, what other factors may have influenced the release beyond just, say, business.
>> right. >> and now we're talking about this appeal. how do you think that did play into all of this? >> well, there was -- there were increasing indications that the prosecution perhaps had mishandled the evidence that they were presented with. and, in fact, withheld some evidence from the defense. and in 2008, megrahi won the right from the scottish judiciary review board to appeal his conviction. >> so the thinking is that perhaps with this appeal, he could actually win the legitimate right to go free, that he would say it wasn't me? >> right. there was a huge amount of speculation that if he were to appeal that the case would be declared a mistrial and that he would go free on his own terms opposed to the terms set by the justice minister on these grounds of compassionate release. >> better to give him the release and make it seem as if he was guilty than to let him go forward with the appeal. >> right. as it now stands he remains guilty of the bombing of pan am 103. were he to get a mistrial, he would be innocent and nobody would be found guilty. as it stands now, the case is officially closed and any
material officially associated to the case will not be released to the public. >> and we'll never know. >> right. >> who do you think has been damaged by this the most, the united kingdom or libya? >> well, i think the united kingdom looks like they're in disarray. it looks like lack of communication between gordon brown and what's taking place in scotland. in addition it looks as if libya has shown that it's tone-deaf to how the world proceeded libya. libya has this celebratory return and that really offended a lot of people. libya did it for its own reasons but without sensitivity to how people may perceive. >> i have to leave it there. jeff porter, thank you very much. >> my pleasure. now let's shift to another part of the world where tensions actually seem to be easing between north and south korea and between north korea and the u.s. the north, for example, has reportedly made a new overture to the united states, inviting top american envoys for a visit. so we thought it would be helpful to see what seems to be a thaw in context for you even as south korea launched a missile of its own today from seoul.
tony birtley from al jazeera english explains what's going on. >> reporter: lifting off south korea's attempt to becoming a space-age nation, its first rocket carrying an observation satellite was successfully launched from a site 500 kilometers south of the capital seoul. built with russian know-how, the narrow rocket is a result of a $400 million project and brings more controversy with its feuding neighbor, north korea. south korea says the program is purely for scientific and peaceful purposes designed to get the country into the lucrative satellite market. the north says the technology used for rockets could easily be used to produce ballistic missiles. the last stalinist state is still brift ling from the afterburn of its last rocket last april which they claim was carrying a communications satellite but in which the international community says was the cover of a test of a
taepodong-2 missile. launched in u.s. sanctions. north korea's withdrawal from six-party talks and no opened defiance it staged its second autonomic test. they claimed they were treated unfairly and say they'll be watching closely to watch the international reaction to south korea's rocket launch. and even been suggestions of a military strike on the south. the truth is that a military strike is highly unlikely. if anything, the criticism from the north is being rather muted coming mostly from its official news agency and not from senior members of the establishment. and there are factors which suggest that relations with the west are actually improving. the meeting in seoul on sunday between the north korean delegation and president lee, the south korean leader, is proof of that. it was the first high-level meeting between the two countries in two years. the slight thawing in the hardline stance started when former u.s. president bill clinton went to pyongyang to secure the release of two american citizens. a clear signal, say observers, that north korea wants better relations.
>> translator: the u.s. wants talks with north korea, and north korea wants to normalize north korea/u.s. relations through dialogue and with kim jong-il's physical condition getting better. it will eventually lead to a better relationship. so signs are good. >> reporter: kim jong-il, the north korean leader, is thought to have suffered a stroke a year ago and his improving health is important to better relations. he's been seen at recent public engagements and is said to be enthusiastic about better times with the u.s., both to help the economy of his impoverished country and to improve relations with the south and the right-wing government of president lee. to underline that, the north has announced the ending of its self-imposed blockade and the resumption of unions have divided families split between north and south which were suspended in 2007. with the launch of the narrow rocket, south korea underlines its place as a modern, progressive country. it's light years away from where the north is today.
maybe there is now a change of heart and a willingness to engage with the outside world. but with its history of brinkmanship and defiance, nothing is ever certain with north korea. tony birtley, al jazeera, seoul. >> although that south korean missile was successfully launched, it failed to propel a satellite into the proper orbit. that satellite was supposed to observe the earth's oceans and atmosphere. there was a huge and deadly explosion in afghanistan tonight. it happened in the southern city of kandahar. that's the spiritual center of the taliban. officials said at least 41 people were killed when five vehicles filled with explosives detonated at the same time. it happened in an area where international aid organizations and a japanese construction company are located. also in southern afghanistan, four u.s. soldiers were killed today when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.
the loss of the americans set a grim milestone in afghanistan. this became the deadliest year for international forces since the war began in 2001 with 295 killed since january. ng this also the deadliest , year in afghanistan for the united states. just over 800 americans had been killed since the war began. although just a fraction of the votes have been counted so far in last week's presidential contest in afghanistan, the country's election commissioner released some preliminary results today. and they show a pretty tight race with president hamid kaai and his top challenger, abdullah abdullah, both with roughly 40% of the vote. if neither man gets more than 50%, they will face a runoff this fall. one of the legacies of the wars in afghanistan and iraq, of course, is the detention of terror suspects at guantanamo bay, cuba. this afghan man, mohammed jawad, was one of the youngest people ever held at the prison.
now, about 21, jawad was returned yesterday after spending almost seven years at guantanamo. >> translator: i'm very happy. i can't even fit into my clothes. i spent a long time in jail. thanks to god, i'm very happy to be back with my family. >> jawad was freed by a military judge which ruled he had been forced to confess to wounding u.s. soldiers with a grenade. there were also concerns about his age. relatives claimed he was only about 12 when he was arrested, although the pentagon said tests put its age closer to 17. his lawyers claim jawad was repeatedly tortured while in jail. and that takes us to our new segment "how you see it." we'd like to know from you, was detention at guantanamo the right treatment for mohammed jawad or not? how should the united states deal with terror suspects arrested when they are still children? you can let us know by going to the "how you see it" section on our website at worldfocus.org. we'll report back on what you said tomorrow.
well, last night, we asked you another question about afghanistan about deepening american involvement and whether the united states should send in even more troops to battle the taliban as the security situation there deteriorates. we had a robust response with a good deal of division on the issue. here's how some of you saw it. one viewer told us, "history's shown that afghan wars are long, protracted and rarely decisive. the u.s. should not waste human resources in afghanistan. there are other ways the u.s. can support democracy in afghanistan without sending troops -- intelligence, infrastructure aid, humanitarian aid and political support. save our troops for when they are really needed." but another viewer wrote, "if the commanders are saying that more troops are required to achieve stability in afghanistan, then we need to provide them. the alternative of the taliban being free to run that country and to plan to damage or destroy our civilization in the usa and in europe is unacceptable. that would also encourage other violent outlaw groups to cause mayhem."
in tonight's "worldfocus" spotlight segment, we're going to take an in-depth look at the global environment with two stories from very different cultures that illustrate the great challenges the world faces in trying to protect that environment. first, we go to the southern african nation of mozambique, where poverty and the need for fuel are causing the decimation of the forests. you're going to hear from one man who was torn by what he has to do to get by. haru mutasa of al jazeera english shows us what's at stake. >> reporter: they've been chopping down trees to make charcoal for as long as they can remember. it's what their fathers and grandfathers did.
the united nations says forests in africa are cut down at a rate of more than 400 million a year. twice the deforestation average. trees that took years to grow are coming down at an alarming rate. the women in the village gather up the logs. preparations to make the charcoal are made. and the pile is set alight. government officials in mozambique say this is a choice of fuel for about 80% of the population. of the three days, the wood chunks baking in this kiln will turn into charcoal, a valuable source of income for poor families. this is what the finished product looks like. a 50 kilogram bag of charcoal can fetch up to $5 u.s. dollars. he does what he needs to feed his family. the father of three walks up to 20 kilometers to make charcoal.
he says he knows the disastrous effects his work is doing to the environment, but he has no choice. >> translator: i know i'm destroying the environment when i cut down trees, but i'm suffering. if i don't do this, i won't be able to support my family. >> reporter: in bigger towns, a bag can sell for three times the price. the country is still recovering from 16 years of civil war. many rely on charcoal as a cheap source of energy. >> charcoal is quite an urban problem. and i think if the income power of urban population can grow, there would be more jobs. people would earn enough to actually buy energy and buy the electric stoves. that could be a big help. >> reporter: but mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. electricity is a luxury. as long as charcoal is cheap, people will continue to cut down trees. communities happy about the money they're making now may only realize the full extent of
the damage done to the environment decades later. haru mutasa, al jazeera, mozambique. now, let's go across the indian ocean for a look at how climate change is literally swallowing up a nation. that nation is the maldives. archipelago off of southeast india. the comment by the president of the maldives has this report from deutsche welle. especially telling, as his country goes, so may go the rest of the world. >> reporter: is an island in the north malay group. it's home to about 2,000 people. for generations they have lived from the sea but now the sea itself is threatening their livelihood. the land here has been vanishing for years. and the rate of erosion is increasing. this year, some 15% of the land mass has been lost to the rising sea level. people are worried.
not long ago, they could look out to the sea, but now the waves are gnawing the beach away. >> translator: just two weeks ago, you could sit out here comfortably and look out to the ocean in evening. now just look, the beach has almost disappeared. the water is getting higher and higher and the tides are getting stronger. >> reporter: just a few days ago the water inundated the streets. the water all but destroyed this small harbor here. >> translator: we got the land years ago and we built a house. but now the sea is tearing huge pieces of our land away from us. we try to put new sand down again and again. we're getting very worried about it. >> reporter: some residents have already left to hadu. and moved to other islands on the maldives. but this, too, has had disastrous consequences. itional jobs are being lost. those who stay here can often
only find work on the tourist islands. the government is trying to educate young residents of the the maldives with a special island school. students of all ages learn the facts about climate change and the affects it's having on the maldives. they learn about what will happen on the island of tuvalu and how long the inevitable can be delayed. >> like a very natural, beautiful place this is. we want to protect this place. >> reporter: malay is the capital of the island state. sea defenses here may look ugly but they're effective, at least for now. the country's newly elected president is forging plans to protect the maldives against the dark predictions of what's to come. >> maldives stands at the front line of climate change and the
effects of climate change. what happens to the maldives today will be what happens to the rest of the world tomorrow. so basically what is suggesting is that if you cannot look after the maldives now, it's going to be very difficult for you to look after yourself tomorrow. >> reporter: the president's plan is to buy up land in india, sri lanka or indonesia, a place where his people can take refuge when the time comes. he wants the world's first climate change refugees to know that they have a secure future. he set up a special fund to finance the plan with money generated by the tourist industry. it's a plan that is being put in place quietly for the time being, at least, the maldives wants to remain a paradise for tourists.
and finally this evening, a story about identity that is raising questions around the world. and one that prompted a long discussion right here at the "worldfocus" newsroom this morning. when 18-year-old caster semenya won the world championship race last week in berlin, south africans got ready to celebrate. but landing in johannesburg today, semenya was met with chants and signs that celebrated gender as much as victory. when semenya defeated rivals but a crushing 2.5-second margin, international sports officials were already questioning whether this young woman is actually a man. the young athlete had no comment on the controversy, only on being a world champion. >> i don't know what to say, man. good enough to win the gold medal and bring it home. >> but at a news conference the ex-wife of former president nelson mandela, pulled no punches. lashing out at allegations that
the athlete's muscular build, deep voice and suddenly improved performances are signs she's a he, giving her an unfair advantage. >> in to the world out there who conducted those tests to test our gender, they can stuff their -- this is our little girl and nobody is going to perform any tests on her. >> semenya's not accused of cheating. what the track and field governing body wants to know is whether her physiology makes her eligible to run against women or men. figuring out the answer to the man or woman question will involve a gynecologist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist an internal medicine specialist and a gender expert. in south africa, semenya's supporters say the controversy stems from jealousy and racial discrimination. test results aren't expected for several weeks. and that's "worldfocus" for a tuesday evening.
you can find much more news and tell us what's on your mind at worldfocus.org. i'm martin savidge in new york. as always, thank you very much for joining us. and we'll look for you back here again tomorrow and anytime on the web. until then, good night. "worldfocus" is made possible in part by the following funders -- major support has also been provided by the peter g. peterson foundation dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility and addressing key economic challenges facing america's future.